E.J. Dionne writes that patriotism is also about dissent:
Have you ever noticed a certain hesitant quality to the expressions of patriotism by progressives or left-wingers?
The patriotism of the conservative goes unquestioned. It's assumed that every politician on the right will wear a flag on his lapel and effortlessly hold forth on ours as "the greatest country in the history of the world."
You can be certain that on this, as on every July 4th, patriotic oratory will flow as well from liberals declaring their love of flag, country and the Declaration of Independence. Many will speak of how our constitutional republic is to be revered especially for its guarantees of liberty and justice for all and -- hint, hint -- limits on the powers of overreaching monarchs.
But the progressive and the reformer have a problem with what passes for unadulterated patriotism. By nature, the reformer is bound to insist that the country, however glorious, is not a perfect place, that it is capable of doing wrong as well as right. The nation that declared "all men are created equal" was, at the time those words were written, the home of an extensive system of slavery.
Most reformers guard their patriotic credentials by moving quickly to the next logical step: that the true genius of America has always been its capacity for self-correction. I'd assert that this is a better argument for patriotism than any effort to pretend that the Almighty has marked us as the world's first flawless nation.